Feb 9, 2011

Dementia, Symptoms, Signs, Causes

Dementia causes the gradual deterioration of mental functioning, such as concentration, memory, and judgment, which affects a person’s ability to perform normal daily activities.

By Alzheimer's Reading Room

People frequently arrive at the Alzheimer's Reading Room after using the following three search terms.

What are the signs of dementia?

What are the symptoms of dementia?

Or, what is the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia?

The first thing to understand is that dementia is a symptom of illness. Much like a fever is a symptom of illness.

If you wake up with a fever you know you are sick -- the fever is the symptom. You'll then go to the doctor and he will diagnose the cause of the symptom (fever). Common causes of a fever are cold, flu, and throat infections. A fever can indicate a urinary tract infection. The bane of most Alzheimer's caregivers. A fever can also be a symptom of a more serious illness.

When someone is told they are suffering from dementia it usually means that they are having significant memory problems or are having problems performing cognitive tasks that are a part of every day living.

Here are some of the more common symptoms and signs of dementia that were noticed by readers of the Alzheimer's Reading Room.
  • The inability to balance a checkbook,
  • the inability to cook,
  • frequent falls,
  • balance problems while walking, 
  • repeatedly paying the same bill, or not paying bills, 
  • hoarding or repeatedly buying the same product at the store (toilet paper, salad dressing, etc), 
  • a change in personality (meanness, anger, blaming, or fear),
  • problems with speech and language (not being able to find words, babbling, repeated use of the word "thing"), 
  • inappropriate behavior, 
  • confusion in familiar places, 
  • getting lost while driving, 
  • the inability to button a shirt, 
  • the inability to order in a restaurant, 
  • the lose of smell, 
  • poor hygiene, 
  • withdrawal in social settings, or blank stare
  • repeating the same story every few minutes, or asking the same question over and over.
  • or, problems with memory that cannot be explained by normal aging.
There are many causes of dementia and readers should know and understand that in some cases these symptom are treatable. Two examples of illnesses that can present as dementia but that can be treated are depression and hypothyroidism. Go here for more examples -- Is it really Alzheimer's Disease or Something Else?

There are many types of dementia including: Mild Cognitive Impairment, Alzheimer's Disease, Vascular Dementia, Frontotemporal Dementia, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s Disease, Mixed Dementia, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

About 70-80 percent of diagnosed dementias are Alzheimer's disease.

Many people believe that a when a person is suffering from dementia as opposed to Alzheimer's disease the problem is less severe. This explains why many people are reluctant to use the word Alzheimer's and fear the word Alzheimer's.

Another myth is that dementia is a normal part of aging, this is not true.

In the case of Alzheimer's disease it would be more correct to say that a person is suffering from probable Alzheimer's disease. Right now, it takes a brain autopsy for a conclusive diagnosis.

Alzheimer's Reading Room

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The Alzheimer's Reading Room